40 Under 40: Naomi Amaha

March 8, 2024

Last night we celebrated Naomi Amaha who was recognized as one of Denver’s 40 under 40. Naomi, our director of policy and government affairs, joined a rock star group of professionals making a difference in our community. She has accomplished so much in such a short period of time and we are very fortunate to have this brilliant and talented woman on our team.

Thanks to our board members Simone D. Ross (who is a previous 40 under 40 winner) and Lisa Zúñiga Ramírez for celebrating with us. And Javier Alberto Soto, Dr. Janet Lopez, Abigail Kesner, and Charmaine Brown for making the night so special.

Denver Business Journal. (2024, March 8). 40 Under 40: Naomi Amaha.

Naomi Amaha

Organization: The Denver Foundation

Official job title: Director of Policy and Government Affairs

Age: 39

Hometown: Sacramento, CA

Current neighborhood: Central Park

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Top (left to right): Simone D. Ross, Javier Alberto Soto, Naomi Amaha, Charmaine Brown. Bottom (left to right): Lisa Zúñiga Ramírez, Dr. Janet Lopez, Abigail Kesner.

Describe your role: I lead the policy and advocacy work for The Denver Foundation. This means I meet with our partners and advocate for policy change on issues that will impact our community and make it more equitable. I do this through advocacy, communication, convening, and grantmaking. The Denver Foundation is a nonprofit, philanthropic organization that works with donors and other partners to improve our community through grantmaking, investments, and policy change.

Big accomplishment: The true measures of my accomplishments are qualitative and reflect how I show up and lend our voice to important issues in the community. I have succeeded not only if a policy passes, but if our partners feel like we helped raise awareness about important issues.

I am proud of my work in 2023. We engaged in 10 policy proposals at the state level, joined in the mayor’s transition committee on climate action and migrant response, participated in 10 policy tables, and provided grants to nine nonprofits for policy and advocacy work and 11 nonprofits working on voter engagement.

I also supported our organization’s co-hosting of a mayoral forum with CBS and the University of Denver’s School of Public Affairs. Because of the relationships I have built, we are more deeply engaging on policy issues, which I think will lead to more successful and equitable outcomes.

What is your “why?” I am the daughter of immigrants and the sister of someone with special needs, whose life ended too soon. The experiences my family and I have gone through instilled in me the importance of safety nets and systems that work for everyone. I am motivated by the opportunity to serve and enact change. From serving in student government in college, working for elected officials, and working on policy campaigns, my career has focused on being a part of change to address inequities and improve the lives of others.

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Next big move: Professionally, my next big is to pursue writing and public speaking opportunities to elevate issues and tell stories. Personally, my next move is to travel internationally.

Industry-transforming idea: I want to see more funders involved in systems change. There’s so much a foundation can do to support changes within systems through policy and advocacy. There’s so much need for different voices at the decision-making tables, and funders can help bring their community partners to those tables and back them by using additional resources and influence.

How do you give back? I serve on boards, steering and advisory committees for nonprofit organizations and the City and County of Denver that work on some of the many issues I care about: climate action, housing and transportation access and equity for women. I also attend and volunteer at community events and host our community partners’ events at the foundation.

What is the best advice anyone ever gave you? Did you listen? You don’t have to say ‘yes’ to everything. You can say ‘no, not right now’ or suggest someone else. It’s hard for me to say ‘no,’ but I now see how saying ‘no’ can create an opportunity for someone who may have been overlooked for a chance to lead.

Anything else? As a Black woman working in philanthropy and the nonprofit sector, the recognition is significant. I am often the ‘only’ or one of few people that look like me in spaces. Receiving recognition as one of the 40 under 40 honorees is a celebration of myself and a signal to others that they, too, are worthy of such recognition.